Tips for Choosing the Perfect Lunchbox

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The first day of school is rapidly approaching!

That phrase elicits elated fist bumps for some, tears of despair for others. When I rounded the corner last week at my HEB and found the red-shirted employees packing up the summer aisle (goodbye, flip flops and swim toys!) and converting it to the school supply central aisle, I may have gasped. Summer will be ending soon, and seeing the spiral notebooks, pencils, and Crayons reminded me both to finish checking off our summer bucket list items and to start making our back-to-school lists. So, thanks, school supply aisle, for that little epiphany, that reminder to make the most out of these fleeting hot summer days. And thanks for the kick in the tail to get my back to school plans in motion.

Site of My 'Summer is Ending' Awakening
Site of My 'Summer is Ending' Awakening

First on my list? School lunch boxes. I’m someone who actually enjoys packing lunches. Homework help, not so much. Or anything involving glue, glitter, or paint. But, food? Food is my love language. Packing lunches is one of my favorite jobs. If only I could say the same thing about laundry…

When it comes to selecting a lunchbox, there are a few things I’ve learned in my seven years of lunch-packing:

1. Consider the size. If your child is going to need to put the lunch box along with books and folders into their backpack, go with a thinner lunch box. The Thermos brand standard lunch box is narrow, which fits nicely into a back pack along with a binder and book. If your child is going to carry the lunchbox separately from their backpack, there is more flexibility in lunch kit selection.

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2. Consider what you’ll be packing into the lunchbox. Do you send lunch foods in plastic bags? Or do you prefer reusable containers? I tend to send food in either Rubbermaid Lunch Blox, Easy Lunchbox containers, or a PlanetBox, so I intentionally purchase lunchboxes that will easily contain one or more of those containers.

3. Have more than one lunch box. Each of my kids has a couple of lunch boxes depending on what they are getting for lunch that day. If it is a thermos/hot lunch day, I use a wider lunchbox. If it is a Easy Lunchbox or PlanetBox day, I use a narrower lunch box. There are some lunch boxes, like the Medport Lunch Box, that are adjustable and can be used in a couple of configurations.

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4. Factor in the amount of food your child will bring to school. If you will be sending three or four dishes and a beverage, a lunchbox like the Tech Gear 2 Compartment Lunch Bag has space for those with a bigger appetite.

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If you have a child that is eating a smaller meal, something like the Fridge Pak Lunch Kit is a good size for smaller appetites. (But be prepared to crave cupcakes every time you see it…)

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5. Buy a lunchbox that has ample room for an ice pack—or two. Blame my food science background and having the Food Safety Danger Zone (40°F–140°F) drilled into me for six years of school and even more years in the food industry. My professors and former employers will be glad to know that I am still militant about food safety. I generally pack lunches the night before so that they are cold once they go into the lunchbox (and it buys me 15 minutes more sleep each morning—#winning), but my kids are used to having to wade through a couple of ice packs before they get to their lunch. No one has time for sick days due to food poisoning.

6. Moms need a lunchbox too! Whether you work outside of the home or not, chances are you find yourself packing your own lunch on occasion. I work part time and often pack a lunch so I can eat on the go. Sometimes that means I’m eating in the carpool line, as it is often the quietest 20 minutes of my afternoon. That also means every time my husband gets in my car and asks why there are crumbs on the drivers seat, I shoot him the “don’t you dare ask” glare. I love this California Innovations Lunch Tote that has its own drink compartment. I don’t leave home without my beloved Hydroflask, so this lunch tote is perfect. Look for it on my crumb-coated front seat in the fall.

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All of the lunch kits pictured are available now at HEB, both in store and online. Through July 26th, HEB has a great online lunchbox promotion. Buy a lunch box online and save $6 on great snacks to fill it with, plus a pack n’ snack box! And by shopping online, you’ll get free shipping at heb.com on your order of $50 or more through August 31st by using the code SHIP16.  Click here to check it out!

HEB special

Here’s to making the most of the remaining days of summer and starting to get our back-to-school plans in motion!

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One Response to Tips for Choosing the Perfect Lunchbox

  1. Iris July 25, 2016 at 11:11 am #

    I never thought about a lunchbox for the busy parent– the better way to avoid the temptations of the drive thru meal! Thanks for the comprehensive HEB review, now I know what to look for next time!